Five Fusion & Sushi Bar is breaking the mold with it's high end feel yet affordable prices
Most Bendites spend Friday night in puffy down jackets, with a dog leash in one hand and a microbrew in the other, so I get that foie gras nigiri and sake martinis might sound like a pricey night out in Portland's pretentious Pearl District.

Lilian Chu disagrees.

"This is a not a high-end restaurant," Chu told me. "Sure, we can serve you a $90 bottle of wine, no problem, but you can also get a $5 wine."

Five Fusion and Sushi Bar is smack in the heart of Downtown Bend at 821 Wall Street, where just a few years ago, another sushi bar called Deep drowned in bankruptcy.

Chu says even Bend foodies weren't willing to, or just couldn't afford to pay a Deep tab.

"When my husband and I went there for dinner, it would cost us $150 for two people," she said.

Chu's frugality translated into one of the happiest happy hours in town just a few years later.

Five Fusion has topped The Source's "best-of" lists two years in a row with pint-sized versions of their dinner menu favorites, like Mini Crab Cakes 6 bucks during happy hour -- 10 bucks as a starter during dinner service.

This is a good time to talk about Five Fusion's signature cocktails. During happy hour, they go for $6 and the surprise is...good liquor.

I'm no liquor snob. I'm the girl who always gets intimidated when the bartender asks what type of vodka I want with my ginger ale.

It goes something like this...
Me: well vodka (whispered)
Bartender: what?
Me: well. (a little louder)
Bartender: ohhh... WELL. (loud enough to make sure everyone else in the bar now knows I'm a cheap ass who probably should have just bought a cheap fifth and drank at home.)
Me: Alright...back to my point.

Five Fusion makes you forget you're living paycheck to paycheck and instead feel like you just fell into a scene from Sex and The City (cue: roll your eyes)...OK, how about Gossip Girl? Is that more hip and timely?

Anyway, here's the breakdown. Fancy fruity martinis. Coolers, like their Not So Old Fashioned a combo of Makers Mark whiskey, club soda and Marionberry Puree.

And...Sake-Tinis, really the best Tini to take down if you're feeling all like, "Look at me using chopsticks, not even dropping sushi all over the place." Yeah, if it's that kind of a good night, a Sake-Tini would be the perfect pair to your newfound sushi skills.

Whoops, almost forgot one of the most important Coolers -- the Bloody 5 Fusion. Sounds a little creepy. But, it's got all the goods of a normal Bloody Mary with Organic vodka and fresh wasabi.

Fresh meaning their wasabi doesn't come from a powder. When you think about it, what good thing ever came from something in powder-form? I mean, there was Tang back in the day, but do you really want to be slathering your prized cut of raw fish with something that came in the same form as Tang?

That brings me to a great quote from Chu about flavor. She wants you to like their fresh hand-crushed wasabi and even the gluten-free soy sauce they offer...but not too much.

"We don't want them to walk away saying, 'I just had a dinner of wasabi and soy sauce,'" she said.

The executive chef told me a lot of people say they don't like wasabi, but what they really don't like is the powder wasabi because it's way too strong. Fresh wasabi has a much more subtle taste.

Many of Five Fusion's specialty sushi rolls come with their own special sauce concocted by executive chef Joe Kim.

Segue -- the great thing about sushi is, if nobody tells you what the japanese word on the menu means, you're more likely to try things like Unagi -- freshwater eel. Or Tako -- better known as octopus.

If you try the Shogun Roll, your adventurous self will taste eel, butterfish, asparagus and avocado spicy salmon (not that adventurous) black tobiko (flying

fish roe or if you're really new to this kind of thing -- fish eggs.) All of this is fried in a tempura batter with an unagi sauce on top (that's more eel). Good for you!

With all those new flavors, no need to muck it up by dunking it in a ton of soy sauce -- you're not eating chicken nuggets, you know.

Alright, back to the man behind the counter, Joe Kim. He's the creative charge behind Five Fusion.

But as any good man is -- he's modest, even though he's been preparing sushi since 1995 when he was just a 15-year-old helping out at his dad’s restaurant.

"I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen everything, so that's one of the things that drives me is the continual desire to get things perfect, to do something new -- to do something different," said Kim.

"Everyone that I've worked with has worked in other sushi restaurants so they all bring something to the table as well."

Kim is talking about his right-hand men, Bryce Beard and Ian Brubaker, who join him on the sushi line.

Don't forget Remi Oakman either. He's the sweet, towheaded teen peeling cucumbers. The high school student developed a love for sushi and has been working his way up the Five Fusion crew hierarchy ever since he was hired as a runner a few years ago.

If you're a beer lover and a sushi lover, go ahead and give Bryce a high-five the next time you step into Five Fusion.

The guys came up with the idea to brine the Wild Alaskan Chinook salmon they serve in Boneyard Brewing's IPA -- then smoke it for their special "roll of the week."

But Bryce thought to throw some hops into the smoker with it.

What came out is tasty and totally local. Well, except for that Alaskan salmon...they didn't reel that in themselves, but you can't blame them for that.

Kim tries to constantly switch things up at the restaurant with things like Uni ice cream and right now, he's working on finding a way to "cold-smoke" fish. So far it's involved trips to Home Depot and a little creative thinking.

So what do you do if you love sushi but your boyfriend is all, "Why would I pay to eat raw fish?"

Kim suggest easing them into sushi with a mild fish like Tuna or the kid favorite California Roll with crab.

If you can't do it, try sitting at the actual sushi bar one night in Five Fusion and let Kim work his charm.

"If they feel like you're just a used car salesman trying to sell them whatever is left over, they're not going to try anything," Kim told me. "But when they know that you're trying to get them to try something that you love and that you're passionate about, I think you can get people to try just about anything."

Kim didn't set it up, but sitting two chairs to my left at the sushi bar, James Westcoat proved his point.

Westcoat is from Redmond and comes to Five Fusion often -- tonight was a special occasion, his wife's birthday.

Westcoat pointed at the Uni in the sushi case and said "There's no way I would have ever paid for that upfront -- now I will."

Yep, Kim convinced Westcoat he was missing out by passing on the Sea Urchin's edible part -- its gonads.

Uni really doesn't look much better than what it really is, but it's considered to be an aphrodisiac by some and have a sweet taste.

Not for everybody, but how will you know unless you try it?

I don't need much convincing on trying new things so I looked forward to trying their special foie gras nigiri.

The duck liver came out looking like a small slice of andouille sausage perfectly placed atop a small pillow of sticky rice.

The process of fattening up a duck so that it's liver can be enjoyed after it's killed is, of course, controversial. But the sweetness of Five Fusion's foie gras nigiri was reason enough to turn a blind eye and feel bad about force-feeding ducks later.

Judged, I know.

Let me wrap this up by wooing you with Lilian Chu's involvement in local non- profits like Kid's Center, which helps raise awareness about child sexual abuse.

Chu is devoted to sharing Five Fusion's space with the community's non-profits to raise money.

The upstairs is frequently full of people attending collaborative catered charity dinners that bring in big bucks. Last year, the events raised more than $30,000. Cha-Ching. See, now we all feel better.

In case you're wondering, their service is fast and pleasant, the restaurant is clean and classy and if you're one of those people who rates a restaurant on whether they have crisp white napkins (as if that has anything to do with how
good the food is) -- YES, Five Fusion is well-stocked with crisp white napkins folded by servers and runners when they're not running your food to you.